I know, I know. The MLB draft was months ago. So why look at it in late August, especially when there's the wrapup of the minor league season to focus on? Simple: the draft matters, but the First Year Player signing deadline is even more important; it's hard to discuss players without knowing that the Tigers control them. And the signing deadline happened to be last week, August 15th to be exact.
So how did the Tigers do in the draft? A lot of fans, used to big splashes, were disappointed in the results. Some experts weren't too enthused either: John Sickels called it a "super conservative" draft class of affordable players, while Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus called it "boring", again, because it focused on low-upside college guys. But even a boring draft has it's bright spots, and so I'd like to go through and look at some of the more interesting players that Detroit picked up at the signing deadline.
Note that this piece will not feature player statistics; most of these guys are playing in short season ball or have a couple plate appearances in Low-A, and that won't tell us anything about their value. In small samples any player can look amazing or terrible (let's call this the Bryan Holaday rule).
Round 2, Pick 76: James McCann, C, Arkansas
Instead of drafting a high ceiling player that fell due to signability concerns, the Tigers drafted McCann, a junior out of the University of Arkansas. This wasn't a sexy pick, but McCann shouldn't be punished because he doesn't ooze with tools. McCann has a good glove and good arm, and he is major league ready defensively with potential plus upside. The bat isn't terriffic; his track record is a bit poor, but he might hit for average with a bit of pop. He's also athletic, which is a nice bonus. Upside: starter. Likely: good backup who can give Alex Avila some rest.
Round 3, Pick 106: Aaron Westlake, 1B, Vanderbilt
I really like this pick as a solid addition at weak position in the minor leagues. Westlake has lots of power from the left side and is very patient, which means that he should offer a fair amount of walks. He probably won't hit for average, and there is a good chance he is stuck at first base (and therefore blocked), but if he can move to left field he would be a much more valuable commodity in this organization. Upside: starting left fielder with a good power bat. Likely: starting first baseman who hits for a fair amount of power but doesn't offer much in terms of average.
Round 5, Pick 167: Brandon Loy, SS, Texas
In my mind, Loy is a bit of a steal. He's a defensive wizard with not only an incredible package of tools on defense (strong arm, good instincts, good range) but he's turned those tools into some pretty good results in college. The bat is a bit more iffy; offensively, his best ability is bunting, and he doesn't project to have much (if any power). But the glove is so good that organizations like Baseball America think he could start. Personally, I'd prefer turning him into a very good utility guy, reminiscent of Ramon Santiago or Danny Worth, the latter of which is actually a pretty decent comp. Upside: second-division starter. Likely: very solid utility player.
Round 6, Pick 197: Tyler Collins, OF, Howard (TX JUCO)
Collins seems to be a popular sleeper in this draft. He comes from a relatively obscure school in Texas, and there isn't a lot on him in terms of scouting reports. But what information does exist is generally positive, especially in terms of his bat. Collins has good bat speed and power potential, but that potential still needs to be realized. He's got a slightly higher ceiling than a lot of college prospects because of that, but his floor is also probably lower. I really want to see how he does with pitch recognition. Upside: good hitting corner outfielder. Likely: I really have no idea- it depends on how his bat develops.
Round 8, Pick 257: Brian Flynn, LHP, Wichita St.
Note to David Chadd: this is where you draft relievers. Flynn has a big fastball that can touch 95 to go with a big body (he's 6'8"). The secondary stuff (slider and change) are inconsistent at best, but a big guy with a big fastball could always turn out to be something in the bullpen, especially if he can develop the slider or change further. Upside: middle reliever. Likely: LOOGY.
Round 13, Pick 407: Ryan Woolley, RHP, Alabama-Birmingham
Woolley has a bit of a messy background; he injured a Cape Cod teammate in a drunk-driving related incident. That didn't help his stock much, and he followed that incident with some bad performance in college ball. But last year he improved, and started spotting his secondary pitches (curve and change) better. His fastball is probably his best pitch- while Woolley can touch 95, it moves better when he works at around 91-92. BA seems to think that Wooley profiles best as a middle reliever, and that's a fair assessment. Upside: set-up man (if he improves even more). Likely: middle reliever.
Round 15, Pick 467: Tyler Gibson, OF, GA HS
I am unbelievably thrilled we signed this kid. Gibson has really good blood lines (his father is head baseball coach at Mercer), and he's rather athletic right now, but he has a lot of room to fill out. If he does fill out, he might be a bat-only player stuck in left field (his arm isn't incredible). Of course, that would be fine. Gibson projects to have plus power, he has good bat speed and his swing (from the left side) is very nice-looking. Gibson has the highest upside out of anyone in the draft, but he's also a bit of a project. Upside: All-Star outfielder. Likely: just a starter, but there's a risk of a flameout here.